So you want to work from home? - Your new bible
First up, I have a question for you to ask yourself:
Does the idea of NOT hitting a deadline make you physically uncomfortable?
If your answer is no, then chances are, working from home is not for you, but do read on to understand why I say this.
I'm in my third year of working from home with young children in rural New Zealand. I will admit, I don't have this perfected but I have certainly learnt a huge amount about myself, my capabilities and it's changed my life for the better. We are incredibly lucky to live and work in a time of high connectivity and innovation!
My first instinct is to tell you, "It's not all it's cut out to be!" but that's not entirely true. Once you have gone through the battle of getting high speed broadband, have childcare in place, set your hours, find the apps and programmes to help you stay on track (listed below) - it does start to become easier!
Firstly, I want to say that yes, working from home is great. Let me give you the positives before I break the bad news to you.
The good stuff:
- No traffic, travel and associated costs.
- Lower overheads and the opportunity to claim back a small percentage of household costs.
- Flexibility around working hours (more about this further down).
- You can take days off as needed so long as you hustle before and after to not fall behind
- If you are a contractor you put some lines in the ground around your holidays and hours.
- You get to spend more time with your kids/family.
- You can work in your pyjama's or ugliest trackies with no make-up (though 'getting dressed for work' may help you start your day more effectively).
- No one is looking over your shoulder micromanaging or distracting you.
- You don't have to spend your weekends cleaning if you can keep up with it during the week.
The bad stuff:
- You need to be extraordinarily self driven and motivated at all times
- You will likely have to get up super early or work super late if you have kids. Don't fight your internal clock, do what you find best for YOU.
- You need to supply all your own gear like laptop, stationary etc
- It can be very hard to switch off, making it easy to over-work
- No one is looking over your shoulder for accountability
- You miss out on social interaction and breaks with team mates
- High speed internet is a must-have. I've done it before with dial up speeds and it nearly broke me... daily! I'm currently using wireless Farmside and it's been fantastic (see link for my pricing and system)
- The fridge is really really accessible so self control is paramount!
Tips + Tricks:
If you do decide to try out working from home, here are my tips for you as a 'work-at-home-mum':
- Decide whether you will be an early riser and work before the kids get up or after they go to bed. Don't try to burn the candle at both ends or you'll soon regret it!
- Aim for 7-9 hours sleep each night. For me this is crucial or I end up in a burnt pile of uselessness on top of the pressure I already put on myself.
- Even better, set yourself working hours. Here's how I do it (well, what I aim for):
- I work 10am-2.30pm 4 days a week
- I usually work those evenings from about 8pm-11pm (unless I'm up to date)
- I get up between 7-7.30am if I work late
- Master 3 is home with me on Thursdays so I don't book meetings for these days and usually use them for house work, baking, slow cookings and down time at home or for doing jobs in town
- I spend Sunday evenings planning the week, doing research for upcoming meetings and meal planning
- Choose a workspace in your house that is warm, comfortable and helps you concentrate. I admittedly work from the couch in the sun, next to a huge window looking out at the garden and farmland as the office is cold and too cluttered for my liking!
- If you lack space and concentration in the house, look at hiring an office either in your local town (co-working office space, in an empty school office, a hall etc) or get yourself a portable office to pop on your property!
- If you struggle to find balance - schedule EVERYTHING to begin with. That includes housework, dinner making and eating, exercise, work, family, sleep, breaks - the lot, until you can get your head around how your days look.
- If you are working as part of a team - communication is key!!
- Track your working hours by project to make sure you are on task and not under-charging or wasting away your days.
- If you have young kids at home, utilise nap times for work and household for awake times. Consider having a teen/tween come in and play with the kids for a couple of hours to free you up. Don't be so hard on yourself - there is only so much you can do! Utilise TED talks or podcasts by having them playing in the background while playing with the kids. Take lots of little play breaks all through out the day and bake, paint, play-doh it up! Considered an au pair?
- Do you need to wind down at the end of the day? Try the Headspace app!
To make life easier...
I also use a range of online apps and programmes to keep me organised and on task because without them I'd be a flailing mess!
First up and honestly non-negotiable: Google Calendar. This is where I plan my day, set notifications for tasks, book meetings, events all with notes, locations and most importantly - colour coded --->
Secondly, Google based again: Google Docs and Google Sheets. These two programmes are the new-age version of Microsoft Word and Excel. The big drawcard here is that I can work on them from anywhere, on any device as they are attached to your email address. The are very mobile compatible. I use sheets for documenting my expenses, kilometers, client pipelines and previously, hours worked. I use Google Docs in place of Word BUT you can export a Doc file as a Word file for a happy crossover. Both of these programmes welcome collaboration where more than one person can work on and have access to a document at the same time all with a link share or invitation.
For website hosting I like to use Squarespace for myself and clients. Asana for project based task management. Dropbox for image and file sharing between phone and laptop. Adobe Lightroom for photo editing. Wordswag on mobile or Canva on PC for image and text development. Manage and export your hours with Harvest.
All of these bar Canva are available for Android and Apple and I swear by them!
Not every day will be a raging success. Sometimes you will find yourself looking out a window with zero motivation, sometimes you will waste hours scrolling social media aimlessly. Other times you will eat most of the contents in the fridge and wish you had the energy or desire to go and run it off. You'll start with a plan and be interrupted by unrelenting phone calls, emails and meetings. Kids will be sick, school holidays will happen and a crisis will throw everything out the window. Tomorrow is a new day!
"You need to be flexible enough to cope with the unexpected but strict enough to know when to let your phone ring and shut off the world to focus."
What you asked:
"Would love to hear about the compromises you and your husband had to make to enable harmony in the household. And also if you have ever capped your work hours for the week to ensure balance" - To be honest, my husband and I choked on my pizza hearing the word 'harmony in the household'. We are both super passionate about our jobs, projects and interests. We are both busy and it's really hard trying to communicate that even though I work from home, I can't be expected to 110% look after the household at all times and I really need the support, as does he. In terms of hours, no I haven't set a cap as I'm still in a growth period but I know that once Virtual Insight kicks off, it will have to be well regulated to ensure we retain some balance!
"How do you keep balance and on task working from home? I always find it easy to get sucked in to household jobs rather than do what I should be doing." - This is SO hard!! Yesterday I made a coffee and on the caffeine high went on to sort all the washing, clean up a kids room, vacuum and more. It really needed to be done but it wasn't the best use of my time and I eventually reigned myself in to sit down and work. Typically speaking I have created an accidental pattern for doing a house tidy on Wednesdays and Saturdays where I tackle big projects. I vacuum a few times a week and the kitchen seems to need cleaning multiple times a day. I would recommend choosing your 'housework days' or if you can afford it and are open to it, look into a cleaner at least once a week (This is what I will consider once work picks up)
"Where do I find these jobs!" - Now THIS is the question of the year. See, this is the hard part. For me it started with the NZ Landcare Trust as a project co-ordinator. For this I was approached by the local team leader at a farm field day. It was 6-16 hours per week including some meetings in town and travel once or twice a year. My second one over lapped with this at 8-16 hours per week for Grass Roots Media as a 'Social Media Marketing Specialist'. Again, I was offered this position due to past involvement and work in the area, predominantly for work on Farming Mum's NZ. I worked in a kick ass team of 3 with a fantastic boss who understood what my life looked like and that I won't break a deadline but I may be messaging at 11pm on a Sunday. So what I would say is be PRESENT in your areas of interest. Don't be afraid to be vocal, educated and interested. Ask companies you admire if they have a position going. Be bold - the worst think they can say is 'No thanks'. Now I work for myself starting up Virtual Insight, I travel for some public speaking and I have another opportunity in the pipeline.
"How to handle social media distractions" - Straight up - I suck at this! But - I know the theory. Put all your social media apps in one phone folder in a hard to access place. Download an app to manage your app times, allow yourself a set amount of time per app, per day and it will lock you out once you hit that time limit (It's genius). Set yourself some boundaries, '4 times per day I will spend 15 minutes on social media' (for example). Delete the apps from your phone and only access them via PC. Log out of them so you have to log in each time you want to have a mindless-scroll.
Don't take the first job that allows you to work from home if it doesn't fit into your interests, passions, values. I do not have a fond view of Multi-level marketing businesses as they out-date and flood the market quickly while filling other peoples pockets.
Have you got any questions? Pop them in the comments and I'll get back to you!